In January 2022, the rules regarding calculating small business size status for federal procurements will change dramatically. Companies operating under receipts-based size standards will be required to use their last five completed fiscal years–not three. And businesses operating under employee-based size standards will be made to use their last 24 months of payroll, instead of 12.
These changes will benefit growing businesses, allowing stay small longer by including older numbers in their averages. But the new size rules–what Congress has termed a small business “runway extension”–actually penalize some businesses, forcing them to stay large longer, and freezing these companies out of the very small business set-aside opportunities that could help reverse their declining fortunes. That can’t be what Congress intended!
Fortunately, the SBA has come up with a simple, elegant solution to the problem, and I think Congress should codify it before January.
If you’re a regular SmallGovCon reader (and we hope you are!), you probably are familiar with the Small Business Runway Extension Act. Under the Runway Extension Act, Congress lengthened the period used to determine small business status under receipts-based size standards, from three to five years. Congress’s laudable goal was to allow businesses to “stay small” longer, but the Runway Extension Act can backfire when a business has been shrinking instead of growing.
Now, Congress has done it again. In the Conference Report to the 2021 NDAA, Congress has extended the period used to measure employee-based size standards, from 12 to 24 months–and whether this is good news may depend on if a business has been growing or shrinking.
When the SBA issued its final rule implementing the Runway Extension Act’s 5-year receipts calculation period earlier this month, it allowed for a two-year transition: until January 6, 2022, the SBA will allow businesses to choose either a 3-year or a 5-year receipts calculation period.
This transition phase is helpful, the SBA noted, to small businesses that might be adversely affected by an abrupt change to the receipts calculation period—namely, businesses with declining revenues over the preceding five years that are nonetheless close to the applicable size standard cap.
SBA’s accommodation of these companies is, by any measure, a commonsense solution to prevent inadvertent harm caused by the Runway Extension Act. But notwithstanding this laudable policy objective, is the new transition period legal?
At SmallGovCon, we’ve closely followed the SBA’s
implementation of the Small Business Runway Extension Act. After much confusion
caused by the delayed implementation of the Act, there’s finally a light at the
end of the tunnel: the 5-year receipts calculation period will become effective
January 6, 2020.
Importantly, the SBA’s final rule implements relief for businesses that will be adversely affected by the change to a 5-year receipts calculation period.
Let’s take a look.
The Runway Extension Act has been a hot topic for federal government contractors. And as of this writing, the issue of the Act’s effectiveness hasn’t been conclusively decided—though SBA says the Act isn’t yet effective, others (including us, in various posts on this blog) have disagreed with this analysis.
A recent GAO decision decided a protest based on the Runway Extension Act.
On Monday, June 24, SBA will issue its long-awaited proposed rule implementing the Small Business Runway Extension Act. We intend to explore the proposed rule and the accompanying commentary more fully over the next few days (as we have been doing over the past few months), but we wanted to provide a quick update to our readers on the main changes in the proposed rule.
The key takeaway is that, once the rule is in place, SBA size standards will be based on a 5-year average. SBA “proposes to change its regulations on the calculation of annual average receipts for all receipts-based SBA size standards and other agencies’ proposed size standards for service-industry firms from a 3-year averaging period to a 5-year averaging period.”
Congress and the SBA continue to disagree about the timing for the implementation of the Runway Extension Act (conveniently allowing my Star Wars references to continue).
SBA recently provided testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship. Senator Marco Rubio called the hearing to address, among other things, why the “SBA has refused to follow the Runway Extension Act.” (We have wondered the same thing.)